June carries the weight of growing pains. It is the month of the Firsts: the first long harvests, the first inescapable heat, the first unrelenting weeds, and the first CSA weeks. While we have set up many efficiencies (tools, systems, etc.), as a farm, and as a business so tied to the change of the city, another season brings the Firsts of June along with a slew of new ideas, projects, and people.
This season marks our fifth year and over these past five years we have had many partners, workers, and volunteers involved in managing and bringing energy to the farm. This season I am happy to be back farming full time with Caroline and Eric after a two year hiatus working to get our marketing and distributing coop, Shared Ground Farmers Cooperative, up and running. Annelise Brandel-Tanis- farmer and artist- is also working full time with us this year and she brings much curiosity, intention, and critique to the shuffle of harvests, hoes, and seedings around the city. And over this past week we also hired on our neighbor Cynthia to help with harvest days and brought on six new workshare volunteers.
On top of tending the farm, this spring we have had some new projects and challenges:
- Farmer-to-Farmer Training: This spring we hosted our first Farmer-to-Farmer Training Day with La Familia Farm- one of our partner owners of Shared Ground Coop- who will begin supplying Shared Ground with salad mix this summer. In one day we seeded salad mix, set up irrigation, harvested, washed and packed, and reviewed the tools and resources needed for growing the mix. Through the training I thought much about our trip to Cuba last winter and how many farmers we met identified themselves as teachers. While there we heard stories about how farmers within and between cooperatives share their knowledge and skills with other farmers. In light of some of the recent research the Land Stewardship Project is doing to fill a lack of leadership and teaching opportunities in farm communities in Minnesota, I felt thankful to be a part of a cooperative where giving and receiving knowledge and resources is inherent in its structure.
- Land Access Struggles: This spring we felt development pressure like never before. Like many farmers and gardeners around Minneapolis and St. Paul we do not own any of our land (lots are leased from various owners- HRA, private owners, Port Authority, etc.) and as land prices rise, so does the pressure to develop the ‘vacant’ lots we lease. We went through a series of emergency land actions, (thank you Caroline!) to hold on to two of the lots we have grown on for years at least through the remainder of the year. We support development, but in tandem we all need opportunities for permanent green space! As we go through this process of land instability we are working with and rooting for organizations like TCALT and Homegrown Minneapolis to build opportunity for permanent agriculture land.
- New Infrastructure: At last two large 90’x 30′ high tunnels have been erected at the Dale Street Farm plot in St. Paul! This took much work in the fall and spring to dig up some of the concrete and get a building permit required by the city. Stop by 625 Dale and visit the tomatoes and peppers growing inside!
Now, back to the fields. Come visit us Saturdays at the Midtown Farmers Market or Mill City Farmers Market! Visit us in the fields in St. Paul, in Minneapolis!